Masterpiece of drama, and a unique deconstruction of Vietnam War era. Both explicit and allegorical, subtle topics of suppressed homosexuality, immigration and female roles in patriarchal community hide potential new meanings and insights. "I love you baby" sequence alone stands as one of the finest examples of film editing I've ever seen.
Christopher Walken and Robert deNiro playing Russian roulette against each other while at gunpoint is a tense cinematic moment. Before we get that far we have a fantastic story that start off with a long-running wedding in "Godfather" style before this end up in a devastatingly bleak and dark place as characters has to cope with effects of war. The entire cast do some of their best work here.
Extraordinary performances, and the workingclass realism of the continental US bookends are (perhaps accidentally) very affecting. But Cimino, self-aggrandizing asshole that he is, is hollow to claim this film is "apolitical." Viet Cong are depicted as a true Yellow Menace; I could give a heck if the Russian Roulette stuff has historical accuracy, but Cimino's dehumanizing is reckless fodder for revenge-cummies.
A week afer rewatching Barry Lyndon, I found some similarities in the many, many perfectly framed shots and lush cinematography (different styles of course - esp the emotional) - The craftsmanship was exceptional, behind and in front of the camera. And yet ... I still wasn't moved. It's a fine film. I won't defend it tho.
Despite good performances and some good moments here and there (obviously the Russian Roulette sequences), the film has major structural and transitional issues; we see too much of certain things like the wedding and not enough of character development. It never quite figured out what it wanted to to be about so you get three moves in one, which I guess works out okay. The acting is great of course, but Cimino sucks.
A shallow criticism, but that never ending fucking wedding is what has always kept me from 5 stars. Yes, it illustrates the drastic difference between normal life and horrific war/post-war, while establishing who these characters are, but it always seems like an unnecessary amount of time driving home that point. The movie is near perfect after that.